Trump supporters cheer as he leaves after speaking at a rally in Claremont, New Hampshire, on November 11.
Photo: Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty Images
Since the 2016 presidential campaign, the question of whether it’s appropriate to compare Donald Trump to Adolf Hitler has come up repeatedly. Trump has used a slogan popularized by Nazi sympathizers, dined with antisemites, evoked white supremacist tropes, and demonized the press and his political foes as the “enemy of the people,” to cite just a few examples of his allegedly Nazi-like behavior. Plus, days before the Capitol riot, the nation’s top general, Mark Milley, reportedly warned aides that America was facing a “Reichstag moment” because Trump was preaching “the gospel of the Führer” with his stolen-election lies.
When people point out that this is all a little too Hitler-y for comfort, they’re often told they’re being hysterical. However, it’s getting harder to deny that Trump is using Nazi rhetoric. Last month, Trump said undocumented immigrants are “poisoning the blood of our country.” In Mein Kampf, Hitler repeatedly described Jews and migrants as “poisons” to the “blood” of Germany and the Aryan race. Trump’s remark generated a few headlines but largely flew under the radar as it came 37 minutes into a video interview with the obscure right-leaning website the National Pulse.
Over the weekend, Trump used some Nazi terminology in a far more high-profile setting. During a Veterans Day speech on Saturday, he told a crowd in Claremont, New Hampshire, that his political enemies are “like vermin.” Both Hitler and Italy’s Benito Mussolini compared their enemies to rodents during their rise to power in the 1920s and 1930s. Trump said:
Today, especially, in honor of our great veterans on Veterans Day, we pledge to you that we will root out the communists, Marxists, fascists, and the radical-left thugs that live like vermin within the confines of our country — that lie and steal and cheat on elections and will do anything possible. They’ll do anything, whether legally or illegally, to destroy America and to destroy the American Dream.
The real threat is not from the racial right; the real threat is from the radical left, and it’s growing every day. Every single day. The threat from outside forces is far less sinister, dangerous, and grave than the threat from within. Our threat is from within. Because if you have a capable, competent, smart, tough leader — Russia, China, North Korea — they’re not going to want to play with us.
It seems clear from the video that Trump was reading from his prepared remarks, not ad-libbing:
But in case there was any doubt, he posted a similar message on Truth Social:
The Biden campaign accused Trump of pulling from the fascist playbook. “On a weekend when most Americans were honoring our nation’s heroes, Donald Trump parroted the autocratic language of Hitler and Mussolini — two dictators many U.S. veterans gave their lives fighting,” said spokesperson Ammar Moussa.
Many historians backed up this assessment.
Timothy Naftali, a senior research scholar at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, told the Washington Post that Trump was using the kind of “language that dictators use to instill fear.” He explained, “When you dehumanize an opponent, you strip them of their constitutional rights to participate securely in a democracy because you’re saying they’re not human. That’s what dictators do.”
Trump campaign spokesman Steven Cheung called the allegation absurd … then promised that Trump’s enemies will soon be “crushed” out of “existence”:
Steven Cheung, a Trump campaign spokesman, told The Post “those who try to make that ridiculous assertion are clearly snowflakes grasping for anything because they are suffering from Trump Derangement Syndrome and their entire existence will be crushed when President Trump returns to the White House.”
Later, Cheung said he didn’t mean to suggest Trump’s foes would be exterminated like vermin:
Cheung later clarified that he meant to say their “sad, miserable existence” instead of their “entire existence.”
But he didn’t retract his general point that anyone upset by Trump labeling his opponents “vermin” is a deranged “snowflake.” And why would he? Aside from Chris Christie, whose presidential campaign revolves around criticizing Trump, no Republicans expressed concerns about the 2024 front-runner borrowing a term notoriously used by the Nazis. When asked about Trump’s “vermin” remarks on Meet the Press, Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel basically said “No comment.”
“Again, I am not going to comment on candidates and their campaign messaging,” she said. “I will say this: I know President Trump supports the veterans. Our whole party supports our veterans. And I do think we’re at a very serious moment in our country.”
Meet the Press host Kristen Welker was asking if McDaniel is okay with Trump using rhetoric that has been used to justify fascism and political violence in the past, not whether she likes veterans (though that has also come into question recently). But in a way, McDaniel did give an answer.